Let Him Go is not a movie for all audiences, and it's not to be confused with great art, but it is a skillfully executed western.

Film Review: Let Him Go

Film Reviews

Let Him Go
Director: Thomas Bezucha

Mazur Kaplan Company
In Theaters: 11.06

There’s still a lot of divided opinion on Man of Steel, the 2013 darkly revisionist take on Superman from Zack Snyder, whose superfans willfully ignore or deny all of his flaws think he’s some sort of Messiah, and seem clueless to the fact that just as many or even more people really, really don’t. I will admit, though—flawed as it is, it’s easily my favorite of his films for a few reasons, chief among them Martha and Jonathan Kent, played by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner. The two actors were perfectly paired, and I frankly could have watched a whole movie about just them. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one thinking that way.

The contemporary western Let Him Go pairs Costner and Lane once again as an aging rural couple—this time, a retired sheriff named George Blackledge and his former horse whisperer wife, Margaret. The pair’s idyllic life is shattered when their only son is killed in a riding accident, leaving his young wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter, Godless), a widow and his son, Jimmy (Bram Hornung), an orphan. 

But Lorna remarries to a standoffish young man named Don Weboy (Will Brittain, Everybody Wants Some!), a move which creates an uncomfortable situation for all, and not just because his name sounds like a Scottish insult (“Fer fook sake, will ya stop prancin’ about like a donnie wee boy and fight like a mahn?”); also because Jimmy’s grandparents are seeing less and less of him. When Margaret drives into town one day to see the boy, she watches from a distance as Donnie smacks him around and strikes Lorna. Before Margaret is able to speak to her daughter in law, the younger couple packs up and moves in the middle of the night. Grandma is unable to shake the feeling that something is terribly wrong, and she wants her grandson back. So after doing some research, she decides to head to the Dakotas and find him, and George agrees to go along. 

When they do find Lorna and Jimmy, they are with Donnie and his family in a strange redneck brood headed by a matriarch (Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread) who rules over this group like a mafia don. When Margaret and George discover that the Weboys have no intention of letting go of their tight grip on their kin, they are left with no choice but to fight for their family.

Screenwriter-director Thomas Bezucha (Monte Carlo, The Family Stone), who has adapted the film from a novel by Larry Watson, creates a moody, atmospheric character drama that keeps building the tension until it feels almost unbearable, leading to the inevitable showdown—because this is a western; even if it takes place now, in a western, there is always a showdown. Let Him Go is a dark and at times rather dismal story, but one that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end.

Costner is decidedly in his element, and frankly, he’s great. But this is Lane’s movie, and it’s to Costner’s credit as both a star and an executive producer that he never loses sight of that. Lane commands the screen with the best of them, and any small shortcomings to the writing of the character are completely buried by her flawless performance. That’s not to say she’s going to be competing for an Oscar for the role—it’s as much a great movie-star performance as a piece of great acting, but Lane has never gotten the full credit she deserves as a star, and it’s hard not to feel some good will toward a tough-as-nails western where the bad ass you don’t want to mess with is called Grandma.

Lesley Manville, who stole Misbehaviour with her enchanting performance as Dolores Hope, is quickly becoming one of my absolute favorites, and she astonished me in this movie. Between Manville and Jeffrey Donavan as her creepy oldest son, I easily bought these characters as all too real. If they’d played in an even moderately campy, cartoonish fashion, Let Him Go would have been over before it started, but it plays like gangbusters. Booboo Stewart (Descendants), as a young loner who makes friends with Margaret, adds an interesting presence, and from the moment I saw Booboo, I knew I had to slap him.

Let Him Go is not a movie for all audiences, and it’s not to be confused with great art, but as someone with a weakness for westerns with an edge to them, this is skillfully executed movie that had me hooked to the very end. –Patrick Gibbs